In the latest special episode of the PitCast, we caught up with Indy Pro 2000 and W Series driver Sabré Cook.
Fresh off the back of the second round of the Indy Pro 2000 season at Mid-Ohio, we spoke to Sabré about her Road to Indy journey, her W Series goals and involvement in their esports league, and her work with the Renault F1 team and Infiniti Engineering Academy last year.
Sabré is currently competing part-time in the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 championship with Team Benik and was due to race in the second season of the W Series before its cancellation earlier in the year.
You can listen to the latest episode of the PitCast below, and also here on YouTube. Catch up on all our past episodes here.
W Series CEO Catherine Bond-Muir has said the championship’s goal in 2020 is to move past countering criticism and focus more on promoting its drivers’ stories.
At last week’s Autosport International, Bond-Muir praised the media coverage W Series had generated throughout 2019, which she said reached an audience of 340 million people on TV and 5 billion through online and print media.
However, she also said that because much of that coverage was dominated by the scepticism and controversy surrounding the W Series concept, she wants to move beyond that conversation to focus more on the stories and personalities of the championship’s protagonists:
“I think this year we’ll do a much better job of making them all a little bit more famous because this year we don’t have to talk about why W Series exists,” Bond-Muir said.
“Ultimately I think we spent last year justifying our position and justifying what we were doing. I think a lot of that has been put to bed now, and in the second year we want to talk about our drivers. We want to talk about their stories and make stars of our drivers this year.”
2020 will take W Series to a more global audience than last year, as it joins the Formula 1 support bill for the US and Mexican Grands Prix.
Speaking to ThePitCrewOnline, Bond-Muir added that because of motorsport’s commercial nature, providing an opportunity to boost its drivers’ media profiles was just as key a part of W Series’ mission as giving them a chance to hone and showcase their driving skills:
“In order to succeed in motorsport, we all know you’ve got to have money and therefore you’ve got to be successful commercially.
“So [promotion] is crucially important because they need followers, they need to engage the public, in order that sponsors [and] teams will support them, and that will enable them to be successful as well as great driving skills.”
Earlier in the year, Sabré Cook spoke to us for International Women’s Day as she prepared for both the upcoming W Series evaluations and her Infiniti Engineering Academy placement with the Renault Sport F1 Team. Since then she has taken three points finishes across the season, as well as third place at the non-championship round at Assen.
With W Series now over for 2019, we caught up with Sabré to hear her reflections on the inaugural championship and her plans for the future.
James Matthews: First of all, congratulations on taking your third points finish of the season at Brands Hatch. How would you rate your season overall, and what has been your personal highlight?
Sabré Cook: Thank you! Overall the season has been a great experience and I’ve learned an immense amount. I definitely made mistakes along the way but I’m a better driver now because I learned from them. The highlights would probably be my 7th place and third-fastest lap at Norisring, and my reverse grid podium at Assen.
JM: Your P12 in the championship has guaranteed you a place on the 2020 W Series grid. Have you decided yet to return next year, and if so what will be your goals for your sophomore season?
SC: I will definitely be returning next year. I’ll continue to focus on improving my skills along with applying what I’ve learned this year. A top five result in the championship next year would be a satisfying result for me.
JM: What impact has being part of the W Series had on your career, both in terms of your development as a driver and your presence in the media?
SC: The W Series has given me the opportunity to work consistently on my performance as a driver more than I’ve ever been able to in the past. I feel like I’m making steady progress and it feels great. The media coverage and excitement over the series has certainly helped grow my media presence.
JM: Catherine Bond-Muir told the media after Brands Hatch that W Series will be expanding to the US for 2021. Is there any US track in particular you’d like to see the series race on?
SC: I cannot confirm that the W Series will be going to the US for 2021, but I’d certainly welcome the addition to the race calendar. There’s so many great tracks in the US but I’d particularly love to see them go to Road America or WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
JM: Having spent most of your career so far racing in America, what were the biggest challenges you found racing in a predominantly European series?
SC: I’ve raced in European races before in karting, so from that I knew the high level of talent and aggression to expect. The challenges mostly came from trying to learn new tracks with limited track time, and getting used to some of the different rules and operating procedures.
JM: You told our Emily Inganni earlier this year that you have been balancing W Series with an engineering placement with the Renault F1 team. Have you been able to draw on the experience gained in that placement to improve your driving skills?
SC: My time at Renault F1 teaches me so much each day on how to be a better engineer. While that doesn’t always directly relate to my driving development it does give me a greater overall perspective as a driver and helps me see the design intent behind engineering decisions. But having access to feedback that [Daniel] Riccardo and [Nico] Hulkenberg give to their engineers on the RS19 each race, does directly show me how the top drivers communicate their feeling of the car.
JM: From your unique perspective as an engineer and a driver, what have been the most enjoyable and most challenging aspects of driving the W Series Tatuus-Alfa Romeo car?
SC: Driving a turbo engine is always fun and a new experience for me. It was a challenge but also enjoyable to figure out how to drive the oversteer balance of the car confidently. It was challenging from an engineering perspective not to be able to make any major changes to the car’s set up because I’d love to see, learn, and feel for myself what some of the larger changes would do to the balance of the car on each individual track. But I was there to drive, not engineer, and limiting us to a standard set up window is definitely the best layout for the series.
JM: W Series has been praised this year for the level of close racing throughout its field. Which driver have you most enjoyed battling with?
SC: I’ve enjoyed batting with each of the drivers, and really appreciate the opportunity to learn from the more experienced ones.
JM: What are your thoughts on how W Series has developed in its inaugural season?
SC: I think the W Series Team should be extremely proud of how amazing the champion has been in just the first season. I’ve never seen a series be so successful and have such a positive reaction and impact as much as the W Series has. I hope it continues to grow and affect so many people in a positive way.
It has only been a few days since 21-year-old Jamie Chadwick claimed the first ever W Series title, but the notion of being champion is still very surreal for her.
Jamie started karting at 11 years old before competing in the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2013. She then moved into the British GT Championship in 2015 and won the GT4 class, before moving to single-seaters in 2017 racing in BRDC British Formula 3.
2019 has been an incredibly successful year for the young Brit who has won the MRF Challenge, the 24h Nurburgring race and now the W Series title. It seems that nothing can stop her.
After finishing fourth at Brands Hatch and securing enough points to win the championship title, we talked to Jamie about her W Series journey and how much she has achieved this season.
Kirsty Campbell: We’ve reached the finale in the first season of W Series. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable watching you drive this year. How are you feeling about becoming champion? Jamie Chadwick: Honestly, it’s all a bit overwhelming at the moment. Not sunk in at all. I’m sure it will do soon! But at the moment, I’m just elated, really, really happy. A lot of hard work has gone into this year, so to have it all come together and be crowned as champion is an awesome feeling.
KC: You’ve managed to score three pole positions, five podiums and two wins. You must be proud of what you’ve managed to achieve this season. How has your team and family’s support helped you through the highs and the lows? JC: It’s been awesome. As the year goes, it’s been a fantastic year. Obviously the championship is the highlight, but the whole build up and the actual season has been incredible. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve had a lot of support this year, a lot of people around me working very hard to help me progress and make the dream a reality. It’s been an incredible year. As the year’s gone on I’ve been lucky to have the introduction of support from Williams, which has made a big difference, and also Aston Martin. I’ve been very, very lucky, so it’s nice to have that rewarded and share it all with them.
KC: What has been the most challenging aspect of your W Series experience, and in contrast, what as been your favourite moment this season? JC: I’d say the most challenging race was definitely that last Brands Hatch race. The most challenging aspect overall is probably the fact that it’s not like a normal racing environment where you have your own team, your own independence—you’re sharing everything, you’re travelling together, you’re swapping cars each weekend, nothing’s off limits to anyone else. You’re teammates but racing against each other effectively, so I would say that’s definitely made it quite tough. I’d say the highlight was either the Hockenheim pole or the Brands Hatch pole, and I say that because both situations I felt like that was when the pressure was really on, so to deliver pole position both of those times was a big highlight.
KC: You’ve been neck and neck with Beitske Visser all season. Would you say that this rivalry has helped push your driving skills to the limit? JC: Yeah, 100%. For sure, when you’re working in that close proximity you find yourself pushing each other along quite a lot and definitely she’s pushed me this year to make sure I’m maximising every race, every result. I think the other drivers as well, some of them that came on strong at the end of the year, also kept us honest. But Beitske for the whole year has been the one that’s been pushing me hard, so it’s been a tough year to maintain the lead over her, and fortunately I managed to do it.
KC: Do you feel that W Series is the way forward for female racers in this industry? Do you think it is the right stepping stone for women who want to progress into the more established classes? JC: Yeah, definitely. What W Series is doing is offering a platform for drivers to progress, a platform that a lot of us wouldn’t have otherwise had. So I think that now we’re seeing 20 female racing drivers, racing in Formula 3 cars at a high level, it’s giving them a much greater opportunity to feed into the higher levels of motorsport later on. For me this provided the perfect platform, the perfect stepping stone, so it hopefully do the same for others.
KC: 2019 has been quite a year for you with winning the MRF Challenge and the 24h Nürburgring win, and of course, winning the W Series title. The dream for you, as stated in a Guardian article earlier this month, is to race in Formula One. How did you feel when you got the call about becoming the developmental driver for Williams? Do you see yourself racing in Formula One in the near future? JC: Absolutely. It was a huge moment getting that call. I think every driver wants to be into Formula One, so to get that first step on the ladder and the first association as a development driver really is a dream come true. You just have to look at some of the drivers that have come through their young driver programme to know it’s a great place to be for any young driver, and for me I feel very much the same. It’s the first step into what will hopefully be a much bigger step in the future.
KC: Which drivers in Formula One (past or present) have influenced you the most in your racing career? JC: Good question. I’d say maybe from the past—although not so long ago—Alonso’s definitely influenced me. More because I like the way he wants to go and race in a lot of different things. You know, last year he was racing in Le Mans, Daytona, quite a lot of different championships. The fact that he’s open to doing all sorts of different racing is something that inspires me. And present, I’m not too sure. Definitely Hamilton, the way that he’s driving is incredible at the moment.
KC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into motor racing? JC: I would say, just get involved. Don’t let anything stop you. It’s a great sport, I’ve loved every minute of it even though I fell into it by accident. It’s a fantastic sport. I’d say work hard, learn from everyone and anything that you can, go get involved!
KC. Do you think you will be returning to the series next year or do you have other plans? JC: I’m not 100% too sure yet in terms of next year. But I think it’s a great series, it’s a great opportunity. For sure if I can do another season with them, potentially collect some superlicence points next year and get another season of experience, hopefully that will set me on on my way and in good stead for a few years to come.
All eyes were on the two championship leaders at Brands Hatch today as the first ever W Series season came to a close.
The British crowd were certainly in good spirits, waving flags and cheering on the five British drivers in the field, including the championship leader, Jamie Chadwick.
21-year-old Chadwick sat at the top of the scoreboard going into the last race, having scored two pole positions, five podiums and two victories, amounting to 98 points. Beitske Visser, Chadwick’s closest rival in the championship standings, had achieved three podiums and one victory.
Both Chadwick and Visser have fought neck and neck throughout the year which has fuelled a vast amount of anticipation and excitement going into the season finale, with their fight for the W Series crown going right down to the wire.
Qualifying took place on Sunday morning which ended in a close battle between Chadwick and Alice Powell in the fight for pole position, with Powell initially setting the pace. Chadwick responded and set a blistering lap in the final seconds of the session, setting a laptime of 1:22.425, which placed her on pole.
Powell finished the session in P2 with Esmee Hawkey giving a stunning performance in P3, giving the home crowd something to cheer about. Chadwick’s closest rival Visser finished the session in P5 behind Emma Kimiläinen.
Chadwick had a good start as the lights went out, but Hawkey stalled in her grid box, and as a result ended up at the back of the field. Powell kept second place as Kimiläinen moved up to third, with Visser in fourth place. Fabienne Wohlwend lined up in fifth followed by Vicky Piria, Jess Hawkins, Sarah Moore, Sabre Cook and Marta Garcia rounding out the top ten.
Japanese driver Miki Koyama received a drive through penalty after parking her car over her pit box line after the formation lap, and as a result, ended up in last place. Hawkey also received a drive through penalty for stalling at the start.
Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Powell and Kimiläinen were closing up to championship leader, the trio within half a second of each other.
Chadwick suddenly came under pressure from Powell and Kimiläinen, and in an exciting three-way scrap, Chadwick lost the lead to Powell and went down to third place ahead of Visser.
With 14 minutes remaining, Powell and Kimiläinen were running five seconds ahead of Chadwick, who was battling hard with Visser to keep her podium position.
Kimiläinen drew within 0.3 seconds of race leader Powell as yellow flags were waved when Koyama spun and stalled her car at Sterling Bend. As a result, the safety car came out and bunched up the pack, making for a thrilling restart with six minutes to go.
Powell pulled away as the safety car went back into the pits, Kimiläinen following on close behind with Chadwick and Visser scrapping for the final podium spot. Visser took third with less than three minutes remaining, and Chadwick then fell into the clutches of Fabienne Wohlwend as she seemed to lose some significant pace.
Powell finished an absolutely flawless race to take her maiden W Series victory with Kimiläinen taking second place. Visser took the final podium spot, but all eyes were on Chadwick who crossed the line in fourth to be crowned the first ever W Series Champion. Chadwick will also receive $500,000 in prize money, with the remaining fund of $1m to be split between the other drivers.
The 2019 season has been extremely exciting and very refreshing to watch. The series sparked much controversy when it was initially announced in October last year, with many criticising it for ‘female segregation’. However, the series has triumphed beyond expectations and has promoted a new and exciting era of racing.
Women in motorsport are taking a firm step forward, and the W Series is helping female drivers’ ambitions to progress into more established series possible. In turn, it is also helping to inspire the next generation of young female racers. W Series is just the beginning of bigger and better things for women in motorsport.
Sunday morning’s race ended in a nail-biting final lap showdown which saw reverse grid pole-sitter Megan Gilkes hold off the charging Alice Powell to win by just 0.03s.
The grid was based on a full reversal of the championship points, including all twenty race and reserve drivers. The race, which did not offer points, saw Megan Gilkes and Sarah Bovy start on the front row, while championship contenders Beitske Visser and Jamie Chadwick lined up 19th and 20th.
The race came down to an intense final-lap battle between Gilkes, the youngest driver in the field, and the experienced racer Powell who had overtaken her way through the field from 17th on the grid. Despite Powell’s relentless attempts to take the lead, Gilkes put up a robust defence each and every time, leading to a side-by-side finish, with Gilkes coming out on top by the smallest of margins. Sabre Cook rounded out the podium.
Gilkes, Bovy, and the American driver Cook, who had a great start to move from 8th to third, held their own out front for the first half of the race. Shea Holbrook, who had started third, struggled for pace and fell down the order, eventually spinning and bringing out the safety car. At the restart, Gilkes came under pressure from Bovy in second, but managed to stay in front.
Alice Powell was among the early movers, jumping from 17th to 9th by the second lap, and refusing to stop there, continuing to climb the order until the very end. Emma Kimilainen also put in a commendable drive, finishing 5th from 15th on the grid and battling for a podium in the process.
Lap 4 saw championship rivals Visser and Chadwick battling over 14th position, with Visser coming out on top, and Chadwick then falling back behind Fabienne Wohlwend. Undeterred, Chadwick was able to battle her way through to finish 8th, while a poor getaway in a safety car restart meant Visser had to settle for 14th.
The race saw two safety car periods, with Gosia Rdest and Shea Holbrook failing to make the finish.
Emma Kimilainen won from pole after a close battle with Alice Powell, who led much of the race, as championship rivals Jamie Chadwick and Beitske Visser fought for third place.
In her second race back after injuries kept her out of action earlier in the season, Kimilainen took pole in Saturday morning’s qualifying session with a time of 1:34.758.
Powell set the second fastest time, despite having the same car that had suffered a number of issues last time out at the Norisring, due to a rule that meant, while normally drivers swap cars at each round, she had to keep the same car going into this weekend.
Championship leader Chadwick put in the third best time, with her closest title rival and local favourite Visser joining her on the second row of the grid.
Further back on the grid, Norisring winner Marta Garcia and Lichtenstein’s Fabienne Wohlwend qualified 7th and 8th. Meanwhile, Vicky Piria lined up 12th after suffering a fiery failure, cutting her qualifying session short.
As the lights went out for the start of Saturday’s championship race, Kimilainen made a sluggish start, handing Powell the lead, and almost allowing a charging Chadwick through. Meanwhile, Visser dropped to fifth behind Caitlin Wood. Further back, Garcia tapped the rear of Tasmin Pepper, who then spun, making contact with Miki Koyama, bringing out the safety car on the opening lap.
After the safety car period, pole-sitter Kimilainen pressured Powell throughout the race, with Powell eventually making a small mistake and running onto the kerb with 10 minutes remaining, allowing Kimilainen past. Kimilainen then quickly built up a sizeable lead, crossing the line 5.7 seconds ahead of Powell in second.
Chadwick rounded out the podium, despite seemingly lacking in pace to Powell and Kimilainen ahead, but was able to hold off a strong challenge from title rival Visser, who finished in fourth and pulled off the move of the race, making an early decisive move to pass Wood down the inside.
Wohlwend, still in mathematical championship contention at the start of this race, is now out of the title fight after running wide and damaging her front wing, forcing her to pit. Garcia is also now out of contention after finishing in ninth.
Tomorrow’s race, which will not award points, will see an experimental reverse grid based on today’s race results. After today’s penultimate championship race, Chadwick leads with 98 points, with her sole remaining challenger Visser on 85 points going into the final round at Brands Hatch on 11th August.
Marta Garcia stormed to her first W Series victory from pole position at the Norisring as championship leader Jamie Chadwick had to settle for third place.
The battles began even before qualifying had started, as W Series staged an FP2 shootout between Canadian Megan Gilkes, and the reserve drivers Vivien Keszthelyi and Sarah Bovy, to determine who would enter the race. By setting the fastest time of the three, in seventh place, Keszthelyi was given permission to race.
Garcia took pole with a time of 50.712s, with Chadwick just 0.081s behind. Fabienne Wohlwend and Gosia Rdest set the third and fourth quickest times to line up on the second row of the grid. American Sabre Cook displayed her best pace of the season, qualifying in tenth place. Emma Kimilainen, returning after injuries caused by a first-lap crash with Gilkes at Hockenheim, qualified in eighth, but felt that even more could have been possible after being caught out by a red flag.
As the lights went out, Garcia made a confident getaway and led throughout, never looking in danger of losing her lead. Beitske Visser made a decisive start to jump from fifth to second, where she remained throughout, with Chadwick and Wohlwend falling back to third and fourth respectively.
Chadwick seemed to struggle for pace in the race, coming under pressure from Wohlwend behind. However, in the closing stages, Chadwick seemed to find some hidden pace, hunting down Visser ahead but unable to find a way past.
The race was far from incident-free, with Rdest damaging her front wing on the opening lap, and Sarah Moore and Shea Holbrook both suffering damage after coming together.
Kimilainen made a solid return to the series, finishing in fifth place after coming out on top of an exciting battle with Jessica Hawkins, and challenging Wohlwend for fourth, as well as setting the fastest lap of the race, at 50.975s.
Alice Powell had a commendable drive, having fought her way back into the top eight after starting from the back due to a gearbox failure in qualifying. However, her luck continued to run dry as she suffered a fuel pump failure in the closing stages of the race and was forced to retire. Sarah Moore and Jessica Hawkins also retired from the race.
Following her maiden win, Garcia is one of four drivers still in championship contention in third place with 60 points, with Chadwick continuing to lead the standings with 83 points. Visser follows with 73 points, and Wohlwend is in fourth with 41 points.
This weekend the W Series travelled to the Misano World Circuit in Italy for the third round of the all-female world championship.
The sun was shining on Saturday morning when Liechtenstein driver Fabienne Wohlwend took pole position with a laptime of 1:33.283. Championship leader Jamie Chadwick and Dutch driver Beitske Visser slotted in behind in second and third respectively, with Alice Powell in fourth and local girl Vicky Piria in fifth. Caitlin Wood suffered a suspension failure in qualifying which meant she was demoted last place on the grid.
The stunning weather continued as the nineteen drivers lined up on the grid for the race to begin.
Wohlwend had a good start from pole despite a little over steer, however, Jamie Chadwick had a blistering start and quickly snatched the lead from Wohlwend, Visser slipping past into P2 and demoting Wohlwend into third position. On the run down into turn one, Alice Powell hit Fabienne Wohlwend which led to a front suspension failure. As a result, Powell ran into the gravel which forced out the yellow flag and the safety car.
Chadwick had a great restart when racing got underway again, quickly gaining a second advantage over Visser in P2. Koyama and Piria had a close battle in fourth and fifth, with Wohlwend quickly closing the gap behind Visser in second. Wohlwent then went wide before the start finish straight, losing a little time, but managed to close back up to the rear wing of Visser.
Chadwick went wide which meant Visser closed right up to the British driver.
After her slight wobble, pole-sitter Fabienne Wohlwend set the fastest lap of the race, the first three drivers pulling away from the rest of the field.
Miki Koyama took to the outside to pass Vicky Piria for fourth position as Chadwick continued to set clean and consistent lap times at the front of the pack with thirteen minutes remaining, Visser and Wohlwend still fighting strongly for the win in second and third.
Sabre Cook majorly impressed having started in 15th and made her way through the field up to 9th, right in amongst the mid-field battle.
Visser was right on Chadwicks tail with eight minutes remaining, the Dutch driver thriving in the third sector, but not quite close enough to overtake the championship leader.
With five minutes remaining, Esmee Hawkey went wide and as a result, Naomi Schiff moved up to eleventh place.
Visser made a small mistake after she locked up the front left tyre with less than 2 minutes remaining. Schiff then had a spin after catching the kerb at turn 4 and 5 before rejoining in P16 and Cook and Moore had a close fight for eighth place.
Jamie Chadwick took the win in Misano and extended her championship lead after a flawless performance. Beitske Visser finished in second place and Fabienne Wohlwend in third – her first podium in the series. Miki Koyama finished in fourth followed by Piria in fifth, Garcia in sixth, then Pepper, Moore, Cook and Keszthelyi rounding out the top ten.
Hawkey finished just outside the points in eleventh, Bovy in 12th, then Rdest, Wood and Hawkins in 15th – who was given a five second time penalty for a jump start. Shea Holbrook finished in 16th, Megan Gilkes in 17th and Naomi Schiff in last place.
The championship is certainly hotting up as we pass the halfway point. The next round will be on the 6th July at the Norisring street circuit in Germany.
After another blistering lap in qualifying which landed her on pole position for a second time, Jamie Chadwick lined up at the front of the pack at Zolder this afternoon, with Beitske Visser in P2, and fellow Brit Alice Powell in P3.
Reserve drivers Vivien Keszthelyi and home-girl Sarah Bovy both made their debut appearances in Belgium today. Keszthelyi had to step in for Finn Emma Kimiläinen after she was taken ill and was advised not to race.
The race got off to a rather confusing start as yellow flags, caused by smoke pluming from the back of Sarah Bovy’s car as the rest of the pack darted away from their grid slots. The safety car was brought out to clear the stricken car.
Amid the confusion, Dutchwoman Beitske Visser ran into turn one and took the lead from championship leader Jamie Chadwick.
With 24 minutes remaining, Emsee Hawkey and Keszthelyi made contact, resulting in both spinning off-track. Gosia Rdest also got caught up in the incident, and the safety car was deployed once again. All three were investigated for the incident, with Rdest was also sent to the stewards for an alleged jump start.
Racing got underway again with 17 minutes remaining, with Visser quickly making a gap to second-placed Chadwick.
Miki Koyama made an excellent move at the restart whilst overtaking Caitlin Wood for P8, the Australian struggling to keep position over the Japanese driver.
With 12 minutes remaining, Visser led by 1.5 seconds. Marta Garcia was put under a lot of pressure from Sarah Moore behind in P4, with Pepper and Fabienne Wohlwent fighting hard for P5. American Sabre Cook was given a drive through penalty for causing a collision, slotting into last place once she had rejoined the field.
With two minutes remaining in the second round of the W Series championship, Alice Powell touched Jamie Chadwick whilst attempting an overtake, but managed to make the move stick and snatched P2 from her fellow Brit. Chadwick didn’t give up though, and gave Alice Powell a tough fight for the second spot on the podium. She eventually managed to snatch the position back on the final lap. The duo were 4.5 seconds behind leader Visser, who was having an impeccable race.
24-year-old Beitske Visser took an impressive victory in Zolder during a race filled with wheel-to-wheel action. Round three of the championship will commence in Italy at the Misano World Circuit on 8th June.